What to Do When Your World Stops

This Sunday I am at home, wishing I could be at church.  It’s been another challenging week, bringing more pieces of my health puzzle together (more on that later).  This morning my mom sent me a link to a very encouraging message, which led me to another.

If you, too, are home sick today … or you are presently facing some other trials, these brief messages (less than 10 minutes each) will help lift your heart and give you direction.  Please feel free to share your comments below, including prayer requests.

Pressure Points – In this message, Pastor Kramer gives uplifting truth and hope to remember when (not if) we face trails.

When Your World Stops – This message is about how to keep going when you feel like your world is ripped out from under you.


How God Gave Me Victory Over 9-11

September 2008

The clock was ticking.  One joyous hour had passed since my youngest son’s birth.  The process had been simpler than last time, and I was gratefully munching on delicious food.  While a nurse checked on me, Tim surprised me by asking her, “What is that dripping sound?”  The nurse replied casually, “Oh, it’s probably just something in the bathroom.” Nope.  It was me.

Suddenly I felt like an actress in a dramatic movie:

  • In one corner, my extremely concerned husband was talking with a doctor
  • Our room was suddenly filled with people, my hospital bed surrounded by worried nurses
  • The anesthesiologist (whom I had expected never to see again) was poised, ready to prepare me for surgery

Someone got down close to me and explained that I may need to have an emergency hysterectomy.  I only remember saying, “I don’t want to die.”  Praying that I would live to continue to be Tim’s wife and Bugga and Booga’s mommy, they pushed me down the hallway toward surgery.  I was lifted onto a table.  Then it all went black.

I woke up gasping for breath and shaking uncontrollably.  Tim and our pastor were standing next to me.  As the symptoms lessened, I was relieved to learn I had only needed a  D&C (a surgical procedure to clear out stubborn placenta that was causing me to hemorrhage). My uterus was in tact, but, my blood count was terribly low – less than half of normal.

That evening, when my Dad asked about what I had been through, I was startled by my sharp reply:  “I don’t want to talk about it!”  My heart had been stretched further than it ever had been before.  All I could do was think about my too-close-for-comfort brush with death and thank God for getting me through.

Hoping that the worst was behind me, I looked forward to going home and starting our new life with two boys.  But, my blood count was simply too low.  Thus, a miserable blood transfusion followed two days later.  They couldn’t find a vein.  I could think of a million places I’d rather be at that moment.  God sent a gentle nurse to pray with me. “I don’t like needles!” I tearfully admitted my dread. She sympathetically held my hand and sadly whispered, “I don’t either.” They tried again and again … finally, mercifully, a willing tunnel accepted the gift of life, and soon we were on our way home.

For months I struggled with the fear of dying.  Sure, I knew that whenever it was my time to go, I would go to be with God.  But, this solid fact surprisingly didn’t prevent the panic attacks I was experiencing.  It didn’t help that my weakened state was the ideal resort for every germ within a hundred miles.  I was sick more than I was well, and I kept getting weaker.  I felt like a helpless, hopeless, useless woman.  A few sweet friends from church and my sister came to help us. They were such an encouragement!  Sadly, I hardly remember having the energy to enjoy my babies.
Curiously, as the title of this post suggests, my fear manifested itself primarily in an obsession about September 11, 2001.  Every day I would have day-mares, reliving the horrors I had seen on television and heard on the radio.  It felt like I was chained in front of a video stuck on replay.  This wasn’t something on my to-do list: Think morbid thoughts.  
Truth be told, I was stuck and didn’t know how to get out.  To exacerbate my rut even further, it seemed like every time I looked at a clock it said 9:11.  Even though I prayed, went to church, and read my Bible, I felt like I was losing touch with reality.

A medical doctor referred me to a local Christian counselor.  She was a good listener, kind, and pointed me to God’s sovereignty.  Practically she suggested that whenever my thoughts started capsizing, I should immediately stop whatever I’m doing and walk into another room, completely changing my activity.  This diversion helped, but I needed something more powerful.  I desperately sought the strength of my Counselor. 

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

I cried out to God and asked Him to pull me out of this pit of death.  I thought often of Psalm 40 and waited for Him to pull me out of the miry clay and set my feet on a rock and establish my goings.  I sensed that God wanted me to be specific in my prayers, so I asked Him to turn my head clock-ward at eleven minutes after anything except nine: 2:11, 5:11, 7:11.  And I promised Him that every time I would see an “11” I would say, out loud, “God is faithful! Thank You, God!” 

Almost immediately, I kid you not, from that time forward nearly every time I looked at a clock I was rewarded with seeing 2:11, 5:11, 7:11, 12:11, and so forth.  For years I had known God’s power through His word and His work in my life.  But with this recent gift, I knew the power of God in a very personal way, and I could see the tender warmth of the Son burning off the fog of fear.  My toxic thoughts changed to praise and I poured out, “God is faithful! Thank You, God!”  It was particularly delightful when He would cause me to look up and see 11:11 – double duty praise and thankfulness!! 

After about a year, my health improved and I regained strength.  God had never left my side, and He became dearer than ever before.

With Joshua (2 weeks old) at Pikes Peak State Park

Why do I share this with you?  It is so tiny compared to what others have suffered due to the events of 9-11.  I do not pretend to compare my situation with others.  Nevertheless, I too, in a small way, suffered part of the consequences of sin and death in this world.  It was a dark time in my life.  God let me stay there, I believe, long enough to always remember what it felt like.  Then, when His timing was right, God pierced through my shadows with His marvelous light.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” 

Psalm 27:1-5

Whatever it is – from your past or in your present, it isn’t too big for God.  He can work in seemingly small ways to remind us of His huge faithfulness. Have you asked Him to show you His light?

If you have time, here is an amazing account of a Bible recovered after 9-11-01. 

Joyfully His,

P.S.  This morning (9-11-14) I looked to see what time it was, and the clock read 11:11 – “God is still faithful, thank You, God … God is still faithful, thank You God.”

Celebrate God’s Goodness With Miriam

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

Come on in … would you like a cup of tea or coffee?  Our special guest today is Miriam Jones Bradley.  I have been blessed to call her my friend ever since we were roommates in college.

Miriam is an encourager through and through.  She is a writer who loves God with her whole heart and is completely committed to the mission to which He has called her. 

Women On God’s Mission is one stop on Miriam’s blog tour, in which she is giving testimony to God’s goodness.  I also invited Miriam to introduce to you her newest book: All I Ever Needed: A Legacy For Life (picture and link below). 

Sara: Welcome, Miriam!  Now I know you are a great story teller, but no crazy stories from our college days today, okay?!  Although, I’m sure we could write a book, especially about the experiences on our mission trip to Hungary and Romania.

Miriam:  Oh, my!  I don’t remember too many crazy stories, but we did have a very special room that year.  That mission trip was something I’ll never forget.  The other day I ran across a photo of the two of us climbing a ladder to get into the apartment while our guide held it steady.  Do you remember that? 

Sara:  Ha!  Now that you mention it, I do remember being locked out.  I remember some humorous situations but also the way God worked in our lives as we visited and ministered in several village churches.  At one church we met a former communist guard who cried when he told us of his salvation through Jesus Christ.  Incredible.

Mirm, I love your newest book, All I Ever Needed: A Legacy For Life.  Thank you for sharing treasures from your life in this memoir!  I am so blessed to see how God has “Romans 8:28” written through the pages of your life.  My heart was warmed by memories of your parents, grandparents and other family and church members.  Please tell us about your mission and how God has been at work in your life recently.

Miriam:  My mission is simple.  I want to encourage people of all ages to realize they can be whatever God wants them to be.  Until now, I have done this primarily through children’s ministry and writing children’s mysteries.  This year I expanded and recently released a book for grown-up children!

In January I chose the word “TRUST” as my word for the year.  I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with giving up control and trusting God.  As if I am every really in control, or could do a better job than He does.  Duh, Miriam.

Sara:  I struggle with that, too.  God is extremely gracious and patient with us.

Miriam:  As I compiled, edited, and wrote pieces for the book I became increasingly aware of the impressive job God did in arranging my life, most notably the people who surrounded me.  This in turn bolstered my trust in God.  As I see what He has done in the past I gain confidence for the future.

The Jones Family

But what about now?  Does He still arrange things?  I think so!  For instance, my aunt called the other day. “Miriam, I’m reading your book for the third time.  I find new things every time and I’m enjoying how it helps me get to know you better.”  She continued by telling me that she woke up in the night and was thinking about the book and then she remembered something, another book.  One that belonged to my mother.

Mommy and Me – 1972

When I was ten, my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly.  It was a life-changing and defining event.  When my grandparents left after the funeral, Daddy sent her notebook with them.  Mommy’s notebook is a collection of poems, sayings, songs, and quotes on a variety of subjects.  I had to make a file when I was in college.  This was my mother’s file and through the years she added to it.  She added notes from messages and seminars.  She added notes of presentations she gave to ladies groups with her own handwritten comments in the margins.  Notes of memories.  Notes scribbled over by a child who was practicing the letter “M” a lot.

My aunts decided that I should have this notebook.  So, a couple of weeks ago my husband and I drove to Georgia where we scanned the pages into the computer and I brought the notebook home.

My Mother’s Book

Sara:  Miriam, I have goose bumps.  How happy your mom would be to know that you now treasure her treasures.  Some day you can tell her all about it!

Miriam:  This book has been an unexpected gift.  You see, as long as I can remember I’ve been told I look like my mother.  It’s something I’ve always been proud of since I believe my mommy was beautiful, inside and out.  I also suspected that I was like her in many other ways.  Through this notebook I’ve learned that it’s true.  Not only do I look like her, but we also share a way of seeing the world and expressing ourselves. 

I’m thankful the notebook wasn’t remembered until after I wrote my book.  I never read her notes beforehand, so the similarities I see are – well, just the way we are.  What a gift!  And, one more way to see that God can be trusted to give us what we need, when we need it so we can accomplish our own specific mission. 

Sara:  What a story!  God specializes in showing us His love and wisdom in the most powerful and endearing ways.  I stand in awe and praise God with you.  I know your mom would be so proud of you and thankful to God for the woman you have become! Thank you, Miriam, for joining Women On God’s Mission for coffee today.

Miriam’s book is such a joy – I highly recommend it.  Each short chapter stands alone, while together weaving a beautiful testimony of God’s grace.  I love it because, in addition to the poignant and at times humorous memories, Miriam brings out spiritual nuggets she has learned from each and every story she shares.  Be sure to have a box of tissues handy!  This book would be an excellent gift for your mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, sister, aunt, daughter, granddaughter, niece, pastor’s wife, teacher, neighbor, and friends. 

If you would like to know more about how to obtain your own copy of Miriam’s book, click on the following link:

In Her Shoes – Widows

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3

We’ve been given two more priceless gifts.  These testimonies honor God from a depth many of us have never experienced: widowhood.  And I do not take their words lightly. 

Just like everyone reading this article, and every woman we have learned from thus far, each and every widow has unique needs.  My prayer is that these testimonies will help you and I approach our widowed friends without fear, abounding in compassion. 

It’s been five years since that haunting and catastrophic event which brought my whole world to a crashing standstill.  On that fateful day, when I came upon my husband in a state of unconsciousness, little did I suspect that it was the end! The doctor’s pronouncement of death came as a real big blow and I was thrown into a state of shock and unbelief. How could it be, Emmanuel had not even complained of having a common headache! He was so hale and hearty up to the time that he retired to bed leaving me behind in our living room watching my favorite television show.

Picking up the pieces has not been easy. Thank God for the strong network within our community, family and friends stood solidly behind me which was wonderful. Standing on the word of God, my church played a very important role by offering me spiritual consolation. This was really useful and provided me with the needed strength to cope.

To all who find themselves in a similar situation, take heart and look up to God for succor. Rest assured, you are not alone and so do not succumb to depression or even give room in your heart for suicidal thoughts.
I urge you to be strong and make your spouse proud by making the best out of your life!
“The Lord . . . relieves the widow;”
Psalm 146:9

God has a special place in His heart for widows and fatherless children. The Israelites’ spirituality was measured, in part, by how they treated the fatherless and widows. There are many references in God’s Word to helping widows.

I did not anticipate that I would be in the widow category for a long time—in fact, I never thought about it. After my husband and I were married and moved to Bogotá, Colombia with our three small girls, we lived the life of busy missionaries as he was a church planter.  Our lives took an unexpected turn when he was killed one night by a thief as my husband walked home from a pastoral call.
It was while I was in probably the third legal office the next day, after we had found him in the police morgue, that it hit me. “I am a widow!” The tears began to flow, and the realization was not a pleasant thing. Things were going to change in a big way. I was so grateful that my mom was able to come down and help. The Colombian believers were my rock. They, too, were grieving, and we grew even closer as we journeyed through the experience together; and my missionary co-workers were the best friends and comforters, even as they were torn apart by the events. There were so many legal things to care for, practical things to care for, emotional and spiritual things to care for. And how in the world was I going to lead this family? I had always followed my husband’s lead.
In that time, God proved Himself mighty in our behalf. I call it the “Four Months of Miracles” as we prepared to come back to the States.  He went before us and took care of EVERY detail.  People were put into my way to comfort me, comfort my girls, give me advice, provide financially and legally, help me get ready for the future. It was one of the most awesome times of my life as I saw God powerfully work every day.  His Word was a balm to me and He gave me this verse: 
“Thou wilt guide me with thy counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory.” 
Psalm 73:24
In those four months the girls finished school, we gave back the rented house, we sold our house, we sold our car, and we had sales and packed up all our worldly goods to come back to the States. And when we came back, we stayed with my parents for one year while the girls went to high school, carpooling with church members who planned for us and worked out transportation for us.
I cannot say enough about our home church. They opened their arms to us and were there for us in every way.  One dear woman would come over about every week and take a walk with me, letting me talk and cry the whole time as we discussed things. The ladies had a surprise birthday party for me at a restaurant when I hit a birthday with a zero at the end—making something fun out of a sad day, as I thought about my husband never attaining that age.
There were men in the church that asked about maintenance details and came and fixed my toilet, blew insulation into the attic, and found the pipe leaking when the garbage disposal overflowed.  I felt the care of the church when my oldest graduated from high school, knowing that we were missing her dad. And even before she started dating her present husband, a favorite uncle declared that he would walk her down the aisle at her wedding; something that had never crossed my mind.
Sometimes it is hard for people to relate to widows, or relate to grieving people. That is understandable. Everyone goes through it differently.  It is better sometimes not even to talk, but just by one’s presence to show one’s support.  We want to talk about our spouse or father, so it is nice if someone even acts interested. It keeps their memory alive.
Don’t say, “If there’s anything I can do, just call me.” That is not going to happen. It’s really too nebulous. Offer something concrete, practical.  “Could I come over on Tuesday and bring some coffee and latte?” “Could we have lunch next Thursday?” Or offer to take the kids somewhere or come and play games with them. If your offers are rejected, don’t give up. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Sometimes a hug is the best thing of all.
Widows may be living with heightened emotions, especially at first. Understand they may cry easily, especially thinking about holidays or birthdays or anniversaries or graduations. Don’t be embarrassed at their tears. Let them cry! Offer a Kleenex with a smile. If there is a banquet or special meal at church, invite her ahead of time to sit with you. Sometimes these are hard times as she thinks of sitting alone.  Or if she has no children at home, even sitting alone in church can be a hard thing.
After a few years, I had one lady ask me about my thoughts about marrying again (privately, of course). She asked if was time for her to be praying for me about this. She asked so tactfully and so sweetly. And I said, “Yes,” it was OK for her to pray that way for me.  Seven years after widowhood, God brought another godly man into my life—someone from my past. I had even dated him when I was a senior in high school. All my family knew him, so I didn’t even have to introduce him J.
It has now been 20 years since my first husband died. I was touched by my daughters’ ways of remembering him and their memorials to him. They had different ways of doing it. Because of their experiences, they are so empathetic and gentle with people.  I wrote them all and told them how much I loved them. The pain of the separation never goes away. But the intensity does. With time, God softens the impact and in the process makes us more like His Son. God is so wonderful! He is a husband to widows, and He is the best one of all.
 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,
and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
James 1:27
To read more verses about how God cares for widows, click here.  Thank you with all my heart, dear Sisters, for taking time to share your widow journey with us. 
If you are interested in contributing to upcoming articles, or if you have ideas for future articles, please contact me on Facebook or email me at saraleighanne (at) juno (dot) com.  Thank you! 

Joyfully His, Sara

Good-bye, Dr. Miller

June 2012 – Dr. and Mrs. Miller joined us for a picnic

This weekend we are saying good-bye to a dear friend.  Dr. Miller was our chiropractor for nearly eight years.  But, he was so much more – he was a kindred spirit, a true friend, my teacher (he taught me a lot about the human body and nutrition), and he was like a grandpa to me and to our boys.

Last night we were shocked and deeply saddened to find out that our dear Dr. Miller died suddenly on New Year’s Day.  He had been struggling with bronchitis, we’ve been told, for about three weeks.  On Tuesday he called his secretary and asked her to cancel his Wednesday appointments.  He felt terrible and was heading to the hospital.  But, before they were ready to go, he collapsed at home.  His wife called 9-1-1 and the paramedics tried desperately to revive him.  They tried again at the hospital, but he was gone. We learned today that he had an irregular heartbeat, and perhaps the bronchitis didn’t allow enough oxygen to get to his heart.  His dear old body gave out, and his spirit was released into eternity.

I can’t believe that I can no longer call him.  It’s beyond my comprehension that I can’t go to him for help.  At a few points during the past eight years we had to visit him frequently.  Thankfully, the past six months Tim and I have been feeling better, needing fewer adjustments. Dr. Miller wasn’t like many chiropractors who try to get you in as often as possible.  Whenever he would work on my back, my shoulder, my foot, or my neck, he would teach me what I could do at home to strengthen my body so I wouldn’t have continued problems.  While he was trying, in a sense, to lose a patient – he was gaining a friend.  I learned so much from Dr. Miller.  And he enjoyed learning things from me, too.  Since one of my hobbies is nutrition, we would swap bits and pieces we’ve been learning lately; even sharing books back and forth.

Dr. Miller went with us through two pregnancies and three miscarriages. Whenever I felt discouraged, he would speak words of peace to me. He wasn’t just a back doctor; he also ministered to the heart and mind. He and his staff became part of our family, and we knew we were part of theirs.

About a month ago, around Thanksgiving, I tripped and my body went out of alignment.  (He used to laugh when people would come in and say, “I’m out of whack!”  He’d reply, “So, am I supposed to put you back in whack?!” :)).  I was in terrible pain with my left shoulder out of it’s socket.  And try as I might to put it back in place like Dr. Miller had taught me, it just wouldn’t budge.  So, I called and made an appointment.

When I got there, Dr. Miller looked happy as usual to see me, along with my boys.  He said, “I looked at your file and I can’t imagine why you’re coming in since you were just about perfect at your last visit.”  He tested my arm strength and put my shoulder back in place.  He went over the arm strengthening exercises again, just to make sure I was doing them correctly.  As usual he seemed a little sad when it came time for us to go.  Before we left, the boys gave him their gifts: two little dum-dum suckers transformed into tiny turkeys with the help of coffee filters, string, construction paper, and glued on googly eyes.  He asked, “Oh, what are these?”  One boy quickly told him, “They’re turkeys, and you can either eat them or use them as decorations.”  Dr. Miller smiled at the boys and declared, “I’m going to put them on my Christmas tree!”  I shook his hand and said, “Thank you!  Merry Christmas!” and smiled one last time into those kind eyes that crinkle in the corners.

I am so thankful that I tripped and couldn’t fix my shoulder myself.  I thank God that I was able to visit Dr. Miller one last time.  If I had known it was the last time, I would’ve given him a big hug and told him how much he and his help meant to me and my family.  I’m sure he knows we loved him – and I am certain he loved us.

We waited over an hour in line at the funeral home for visitation tonight.  Among the crowd were Amish people – he would take his instruments and travel to serve the Amish about once a month.  There were tons of friends he’d made through his antique car club, patients, co-workers, church friends, and many family members.  I felt so honored to meet his little mother, who can’t hear and is about 100 years old.  I hugged her and cried.  She told me, “I kept asking him when he was going to retire, and he said he didn’t want to retire because he loved helping people.”  She sat near the casket.  Near her little boy.

I am one of many who are going to miss him.  Even though he had a long list of friends, I knew I was special to him.  He knew how to care for my body, and he knew how to make me smile.  I know he loved God, and I believe he had at some point trusted in Jesus as his personal Savior.  So, I look forward to seeing my dear Dr. Miller again in heaven someday.  Good-bye, my dear friend.

Thank You, God, for letting me know Dr. Miller.  He was such a blessing to our family.  Please comfort his wife, his mother, and the rest of his family.  Please help me learn from his example and be an encouragement to others like he was.  Thank You!  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Ten "Going Crazy" Tips

“Call the Funny Farm!”  Not if, but when is the last time you were in a position of confusion, exhaustion, discouragement and/or grief, and you felt someone must quickly provide emergency intervention?  If you’re like me, it was as recent as yesterday or this morning. Stressful moments, from mildly irritating to incredibly difficult, come to all of us!  They can sneak up as a complete surprise.  They can also be predictable.  Can you relate to some of these?

  • Full schedule
  • Homeschooling (especially on wet or cold days after we’ve been inside for too long!)
  • Times of transition
  • Weddings
  • Holidays
  • Illness or injury
  • Hormones
  • New member in the family
  • A time of loss
  • Financial strain
  • Job tension
  • When disappointed by people or circumstances
  • When we sin against or disappoint people 
  • When we receive bad news
  • Reorganization at work or church
  • During a move/remodel
  • Etc!

How do you deal with your craziness? It really is a good thing that our lives aren’t completely trouble free.  If they were, where would our need be for God?  You’ve probably heard these before, but I’m praying that God will use something here to encourage you, dear Sister!  Here are a few of my favorite “Crazy” tips:

1.  Rest

As soon as possible do whatever it takes to get much needed rest.  My two boys, six and four, are pretty much beyond naps.  Yet, we still have a 1 1/2 hour reading/quiet time in the middle of the day.  It is helpful for everyone.  My six-year-old actually looks forward to it!  If you are anything like me, everything seems much worse when I am overly tired.  And my exhaustion can be a sign that my priorities are out of kilter.  My doing too much can be attibuted to my own pride. 

Whenever necessary (not more than once per day :)), get your kids occupied with a good video and go to your room, close the door, put on your MP3 player or a good set of earplugs, lay flat on the floor and stretch your arms above your head while breathing in and out slowly.  Here is one of my helpers:

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2

2.  Eat

It really can be as simple as taking time to nourish ourselves.  My tendency is to crave chocolate and potato chips, but these usually make me feel worse.  At the risk of sounding like your mother, eat well and drink lots of water.  Grill some chicken, make a salad, grab an apple.  Go through a drive-thru and buy a salad if you can afford it.  Indulge in the food you are craving, if you must.  But, don’t go overboard, and don’t resort to splurging as a daily escape from reality.  Popcorn is a calming snack, as is a banana.  I love it that when Elijah was tired, afraid, and discouraged God did not berate him and condemn him.  God isn’t condemning us: let us not condemn ourselves.  Enjoy some of God’s good gifts – eat!

“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.  And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’” I Kings 17:2-4

3.  Remember you are in a spiritual battle.

Too easily I forget that I am a soldier in a spiritual war.  I’m sure that my forgetfulness, and the ensuing consequences, makes Satan very happy.  We should expect daily battles!  You think your temptations regarding food isn’t part of your spiritual battle?  What was Eve’s first spiritual battle about?  Yet, what we are really fighting against is far more gigantic than people, circumstances or food:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” Ephesians 6:12

Would we go to the hottest site in Afghanistan unarmed?  No way.  Give me the largest tank and a wide selection of the most accute bombs available.  So then, how can we expect to face spiritual battles unarmed?  There is no option here.  We must eat, we must breath, we must be in God’s Word!  Especially during days of pressure, weakness, doubt, and possible depression, begin the day by putting on the armor of God, by reading and praying through Ephesians 6:10-20 (you can read it by clicking on the link below):

And, remember, we are on the winning side.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4

We must take time to read God’s love letter to us and . . .

4.  Pray

We cannot begin to estimate the power of talking to God.  Pour out your heart to Him!  If writing is your thing, grab a pen and paper or a computer and write your prayers to God.  It will help you to get it out of your system and leave it with the One Who has the power to work 24/7 for your good and His glory.  If you write it down it will also help you gain perspective on your problems.  How precious that our almighty God took on flesh and came to this wicked world.  He cried our tears, sharing our sorrows:

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15,16

5.  Talk to a godly friend. Ask for help! 

One of the highlights of Sunday is talking briefly with a friend at church about how we can pray for one another throughout the coming week.  And I can’t remember the number of times I have sent emergency emails or Facebook messages to ask sisters to pray for me.  It is an immediate relief to be reminded that we are not alone.  Don’t worry that you will be bothering someone (unless this is the 5th time you’ve called them today!). 

I do want to stress GODLY friend.  Not perfect (there aint any!), but growing.  Who is a godly friend?  One who is going to love you, show you grace, not judge you . . . but, also someone who is going to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.  Call the friend who listens, cares, and points you to Jesus.

We recently heard Todd Wilson, of FamilyMan Ministries, speak to our local homeschool parents group.  He spoke of a woman who called his wife and asked if she could come over to talk to her.  They started with small talk, but soon the conversation got deeper.  The visiting woman, one of whom Todd said we would all look at as the ultimate godly woman, quoting Scripture and giving glory to God, shared a personal hurt with Todd’s wife.  She told of a time two years before when she had been studying her Bible and her little girl kept interrupting and trying to get Mama’s attention.  The woman grabbed her little girls wrist too hard and broke it.  Since then the mother had been in agony.  As she shared her burden with this godly friend, she was able to breath and move on.  Todd’s wife didn’t condemn her, but instead told her things like, “Oh, I am so sorry!  Any one of us could’ve done the same thing!  I know you didn’t mean to do it.” (Todd even humorously admitted wanting to share some personal experience/not-so-good advice, “I understand . . . I’ve often felt like I wanted to break every bone in my child’s body!”)  Finally, this Christian sister was able to move on with her life.  Sometimes we just need to confess our mistakes or sins to a godly friend.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

6.  Forget the past and move on. 

If your stress has to do with your past (twenty years ago or yesterday), God wants you to forget it and move one.  If you need to apologize, write the letter, make the visit, or pick up the phone.  Even if people are hesitant to forgive.  God is always ready to forgive us!

If you have been sinned against and are constantly plagued by bad memories, practice giving these burdens to God – the more you do it the easier it will get to give them over to Him and not grab them back.  If you are obsessing, ask God to change your mind and literally get up and move into a different room and do a different activity.  A Christian counselor recommended this when I was obsessing about death after a close call, and it really helped me.  It is so refreshing when we can look forward to the future, entrusting our past and our future to God’s excellent care!

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

7.  Plan something to look forward to. 

We women have the privilege of serving the people in our lives: cooking, cleaning, driving people to appointments, cards, listening, etc.  But we get worn out and need to be recharged.  Get out your calendar and look for the first free space – plan a date with your husband or a friend.  If other people are too busy, plan a date for yourself – go out and get a coffee or ice cream, read a favorite book, sit by a beautiful lake and soak in God’s beauty.  And do it without feeling guilty!  God gives good gifts to His children!  He gave Jesus so that we can live more abundantly.

“And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.” Mark 6:31-32

8.  Claim your blessings. 

Reminiscent of Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book One Thousand Gifts, simply sit down and start writing down all the things you have to be thankful for.  Your list of “bad things” is much smaller than the “good things” . . . and you’ve probably realized why I set apart “good” and “bad” to remind us that our point of view is terribly limited.  What may seem bad to us may be what God is going to use to do amazingly good things in our lives.

Ask God to help you be thankful for where you are right now, including all the yucky stuff.  He can and will give strength to help us be genuinely thankful for trials. All we need to do is ask and wait on Him.  God highly treasures our sacrifice of praise.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

9.  Cry and Breathe

Just a couple days ago I let it all out in my room, boo-hooing and doing some much needed grieving.  I felt so much better afterward. Crying purges!  It rids our bodies of toxins. Crying is part of what God has given to help us release some of the pent-up emotional pressure.  These verses are probably familiar to you, so I want to share them in a translation other than the NKJV to give another perspective.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

If you are not a cryer, take a brisk walk, work out, release that stress somehow (and I don’t mean hurling a pan over your husband’s head!).  And as our sweet more mature friends gently remind us, “This too shall pass.” 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

10.  Pick One

Think of five people you know who are going through a trial right now (not including yourself).  Plan how you, or you along with your family, can do something simple and special for him or her. 

If you have a neighbor who just broke her arm, offer to rake her leaves.  If you have a friend who just went through surgery, take a meal or a happy balloon over with a favorite coffee.  Fresh flowers can be an extravagant gift making people feel loved, but most women I know prefer plants that aren’t going to die (unless they have thumbs not even close to the color of green and are thankful that after a short while their flowers die naturally 🙂 ).

I have a friend who has been suffering with depression. Just a phone call meant the world to him and helped him to be brave enough to seek the help he needed.  I praise God that He used little ol’ me to help a brother in need, and at the same time get my mind off my own troubles.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

I hope something in this list will help you during this crazy time of life!  The best thing to remember as women on God’s mission, we are not alone, and God is lovingly continuing the good work He started in us.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” Isaiah 41:10
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  Philippians 1:6

Autumn Reflections

Last Sunday afternoon we drove to a nearby park to take in the autumn splendor. One son was at a birthday party, so we took the opportunity to enjoy an adventure with our four-year-old. In the middle of the park is a twenty-seven acre lake. It beckoned and we followed.

This lake is unique because of the seven bridges, some over 100 years old, which were transplanted from various locations around our state. 

One bridge stood out to me. I was surprised to discover that the bridge’s original purpose was to be the support structure for the top of a building.   Because it didn’t meet specifications, the builders threw it away. Later on it was discovered by someone with a vision for what it could be. If this bridge had a brain, it never would have imagined ending up here. God knew that this bridge wasn’t a mistake! He allowed a man to find and place it in this majestic setting.

As we approached the bridge and followed it from beginning to end, we were impressed by it’s rustic beauty. We were very grateful for the bridge’s help as it made it possible for us to walk all the way around the lake. Yet, the focus of our attention and praise was not the bridge. We were captivated by the incredible beauty of God’s creation all around us.

The bridge originally destined for the top of a building

These bridges remind me of how God works in my life.   My dreams sometimes clash with reality. God created me for different roles in life, and sometimes He uproots me to a different location. I cry, “But, I thought you wanted me to be here, to do this!”   He lovingly carries me, reassembling me in my new place of service. And miraculously, to me, I fit into His plan.

And my imperfect past was not a mistake.  God used people, places, and Himself to make me who He wants me to be.  He can use me wherever He places me.  And I will not be here alone – He promises to stay with me all the time.  Like the bridge, my purpose is not to captivate people, bringing attention to myself.  I am part of what helps make it possible for people to see God.
This autumn has been one of the prettiest in recent years. The colors feed my spirit. The crisp breeze, warmed by the Indian Summer sun, nourishes my soul. In the midst of this beauty my weary heart cannot help but smile. At times I feel insecure during life’s constant state of transition.  This is what keeps me depending on God instead of myself.  As I take my hurts and disappointments to my Savior, He promises to comfort and bless.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Are you grieving a life that is different than what you had hoped it would be? Are you confused about what God is doing in your family, schedule, body, job, church, etc.?  Grieving is not wrong. It is part of the way God made us. But, our grieving must not keep us from moving ahead with God. He hears the cries of our hearts, He understands, and He is working what is best. He can be trusted.
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalm 18:30
Father God, please help us to be thankful for where You have placed us, and may our lives help others see You in all Your splendor.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14